India is a land of gems and it is proved time and again by its people. Today i.e., 7th April, celebrates the birth anniversary of one such gem whose contribution in the revival of Indian Classical music in the modern world is undeniable.
Born as Robindro Shankar Chowdhury in Benares to Pandit Dr Shyam Shankar Chowdhury, he got an exposure to Indian Classical music from a very tender age. But it was his talent that he became the brightest star of his family. His father and elder brother, Uday Shankar, provided him an international stage while his stay in Paris, he started his career as a dancer in his brother, Uday Shankar’s dance group, but later he choose to be in India and learn the music of his land and this drove him under the able tutelage of Ustad Allauddin Khan, affectionately known as Baba.
After gaining the musical refinement, he set out to pursue his professional career. Since then he stated composing music for films as ‘Dharti ke Lal’, and ‘Neecha Nagar’. He also composed the music to Mohd. Iqbal’s ‘Sare Jahan Se Accha’ and it is the most famous version even today. He also composed music for Satyajit Ray’s iconic movie Pather Panchali. In 1949 he became a music director of All India Radio in Delhi and he continued this position till 1956. His compositions were so heart touching and enchanting that, guitarist George Harrison and Violinist, Yehudi Menuhin of the ‘Beatles’, the famous American boys band, became his student in 1966. This association catapulted Ravi Shankar to international fame. His performances at Monterey, Woodstock, and his numerous recordings earned him the undying admiration of an entire generation throughout the world. Speaking to KRLA Beat in July 1967, Ravi Shankar said: “Many people, especially young people, have started listening to sitar since George Harrison, one of the Beatles, became my disciple … It is now the ‘in’ thing.” He also founded a national chamber orchestra called Vadya Vrinda – an Indian ensemble with a few extra western stringed instruments
He has won innumerable awards including the Bharat Ratna, three Grammy Awards and has received of Grammy’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and numerous other honorary Doctorates. Shankar was also nominated for an Oscar for the soundtrack he created for the film ‘Gandhi’ starring Ben Kingsley. But his life was not devoid of problems. He lost his is mother at a very young age. He had to undergo tremendous professional struggles when he teamed up with the band of ‘Beatles’, people started calling him a hippie, who promoted drug use. Later he distanced himself from his hippie associations and began to refocus on rebuilding his status as a classical Indian musician but his friendship with Harrison endured. His first failed marriage to Annapurna Devi and the premature death of his son were other unbearable blows of his personal life.
However, in later years his personal and professional life settled down. His marriage to Sukanya, and their daughter Anoushka Shankar, is a respected sitarist in her own right. One other daughter of Ravi Shankar with Sue Jones is Nora Jones who has made a very big name for herself as a jazz pianist and singer-songwriter of the west.
Shankar taught at various renowned colleges and universities across the world imparting Hindustani classical music. He continued to perform in concerts across India and the world and as a result the Indian culture and its authenticating classical music got an exposure throughout the world. On this 96th birth anniversary of this legendary musician, come lets join together to pay him tribute for all the good he has done throughout his life.